The Pete Newell coached defending champion California Golden Bears returned to the title game against the Ohio State Buckeyes on March 19, 1960 in the Cow Palace in San Francisco.
OSU had climbed through the 25 team field by defeating Notre Dame 74-66, Western Kentucky 98-79, Georgia Tech 86-69 and NYU 76-54. Fans had expected a Cincinnati/West Virginia final but NYU had dispatched the Mounteneers and California had defeated the Bearcats in the national semifinal.
Ohio State had what was termed the super sophomores, Jerry Lucas, John Havlicek and Mel Nowell. To go with them was junior Larry Siegfried and senior Joe Roberts. Lucas, Havlicek and Newell were all highly recruited Ohio high school stars.
Lucas had been AP first team all Ohio three straight years and Havlicek was all Ohio in basketball, football and baseball while Nowell was an all Ohio selection at Columbus East and the number two ranked player in Ohio as a senior behind Lucas. The OSU freshman team the previous year had been so good that they had defeated the OSU varsity in an exhibition game.
Their coach was Fred Taylor and the sixth man coming off the bench was defensive specialist Bobby Knight. Taylor had been a star player at Ohio State and had a brief pro baseball career with the Washington Senators before returning to Columbus as an assistant in 1958.
Siegfried who had led Ohio high school players in scoring in his senior year with a 38 ppg average at Shelby High School had averaged 19.6 ppg as a sophomore but had to adjust his game as a junior with the addition of Lucas and Co. Siegfried, Lucas and another member of the OSU team Richie Hoyt of Mt. Vernon were all members of the 1957 AA all Ohio AP first team.
The fifth starter was senior Joe Roberts also from Columbus East High School who averaged 11.0 ppg and 6.9 rpg. All five Ohio State starters would go on to play in in the NBA.
California had defeated Idaho State 71-44, Santa Clara 69-49, and Oregon 70-49 and for the second consecutive year Cincinnati 77-69, holding Oscar Robertson to 4 for 16 from the field.
The Bears returned Darrall Imhoff and Bill McClintock from the previous year’s championship team and it would be Imhoff’s job to stop Buckeyes’ All American center Jerry Lucas who had scored 36 points and grabbed 25 rebounds against Western Kentucky and averaged 26.3 ppg with a .637 field goal percentage. By the end of his college career Lucas was considered one of the greatest college players ever.
The game was decided in the first half as the Buckeyes made an astonishing 84% of their shots from the field to lead 37-19 and finished with a .674 field goal percentage to California’s .339. The previous year’s star Bill McClintock was 4 of 15 from the field. The Buckeyes out rebounded the Bears 34-21.
Lucas was the tournament’s most outstanding player and Ohio State would return the next year while the California Bears have not returned to the NCAA final.
Pete Newell would retire from coaching and become the athletic director at Cal and later be general manager of the San Diego Rockets and Los Angeles Lakers.
Ron Griffitts a contribution columnist for the Daily Advocate